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Universal Credit has taken another hit today after staff at two Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) call centres voted to strike for 2 days in March. The staff at the Wolverhampton and Walsall centres voted by a whopping 138 to 15, in favour of industrial action. They are demanding an extra 5000 staff to help ease the extreme workloads they are facing.
I previously wrote that DWP Staff may be key to forcing the government to improve the situation Universal Credit claimants face. Now it seems, that may become a reality.
Staff from 2 call centres have voted to strike on March 11th and 12th, after they described being treated with “utter contempt” by the DWP. A total of 274 staff will walk out.
The staff who are members of the PCS union are demanding the department take on an extra 5000 staff to ease the workloads they are facing.
The union is also backing them in calling for full contracts for fixed term workers and an end to being judged purely by statistics.
The workers are unhappy as they are often the recipients of abuse due to the benefits failings.
PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka gave a statement after the result of the vote was announced:
“The message from our members is clear – changes need to be made otherwise they will walkout for two consecutive days.
“The union has tried to negotiate for months but to no avail.
“Ministers have stuck their heads in the sand and our members are now sending them a very loud wakeup call.
“PCS members have not taken the decision to strike lightly.
“But the fact is industrial relations have broken down because ministers seem intent on running this service into the ground while treating staff with utter contempt.”
This will come as a blow to the DWP and Amber Rudd. They’ve been attempting to improve the image of Universal Credit by putting out success stories.
However. they seem to have forgotten to look after their own staff and now are facing the consequences.
A DWP (Department for Work and Pensions) spokesperson said:
“This result is disappointing, we greatly value the work that our colleagues do and our top priority remains assessing and making payments to customers. We are comfortable with current staffing levels and will monitor and reallocate resource where necessary.
“Contingencies are underway to ensure the smooth running of our services to minimise any impact. We urge PCS to seek to resolve this through further dialogue.”
From this response it appears that this initial action will do little to make the DWP change their mind. As usual the department has it’s head in the clouds when it comes to Universal Credit.
Staff have raised legitimate concerns about their ability to help claimants and the DWP are saying; “nah, we’re fine.”
Whilst this initial action may not force change, it may lead to a much bigger revolt that will leave the government no choice but to act.
For anyone worried they may be affected please contact your work-coach through your online journal if possible.